Saturday, October 25, 2008

Horticultural Therapy

For many reasons, I already feel that I am a horticultural therapist, but I do not have a certificate in the field. As much as I may want one, and I may still seek one out, part of me is somehow upset by the fact that even garden therapy has now been sucked into the professionalism can. This, again, points to how difficult it can be to begin again when your first plan at a profession is hindered by your health.
As someone already set back by years of being unable to work, it is sad to begin again already thinking of missing out on a few more years, since they will be sucked up by some other kind of training. In addition, there is always the fear of falling apart, again, after having had to drop other big life plans. Failure was never an option in the past, but now it is almost always expected, along with a another trip to a doctor, and another...
Expecting failure is a strange way to live, but at least I rarely, if ever, see germination failure. I tend to let plants fail when the weather gets too hot, and I don't water them quite enough. Then it is their failure—not really—but it is a state of failure I can accept. Okay, the only version of failure I can deal with at all. Until they are strong, I care for them more than I often care for myself. This is how I live as I await a return to anything close to normal for me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trading Seeds

I am so excited now about being a member of You don't have to be a member to trade, but if you are one, the trading is a bit easier, otherwise, you can only send out a few messages per day to others you'd like to trade seeds with elsewhere. Now is the time, typically, when I begin sorting my seeds, arranging them into their drawers for simple storage. For several years now, the system has worked really well and I still use it.

My little set of drawers was a smart item I purchased from IKEA. I use it to hold the bi-weekly groups of seeds planted one after the other until the last-frost day in Portland down in my basement with lights and heat. I sort the larger groups of seeds into bags. They are labeled for two planting periods: right now (outside) for a natural winter stratification, and after the last frost.
Now that they are arranged in their spots awaiting planting, I am trading online, shopping online, and I am adding to the Excel spreadsheet slowly.

This year I germinated hundreds of seeds, but this next year I intend to be a bit better, and not attempt quite so many. Let's hope that's true. I need to take care of myself and my health, and enjoy my plants, not hate them.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Collecting Seeds, Again

The annual process of seed collection never fails to interest me—even when I am more tired than ever. Each year brings a new lesson in plant develpment, and even after years of this, I just never seem to know enough about any of the plants. There is always something new to learn. And what, you might ask, are the lessons of this year? Here they are, some of them more profound than others:

1) There is a great deal of joy when you buy that one expensive plant, special and rare, and late in the season, it gives you viable seeds. My mother has been excited about a plant she purchased online, and when she saw the seeds pouring out of its dried seedheads, she looked like a little kid jumping for joy.

2) Seeds collected, for some, really are like currency. They can be traded for other seeds, and then more plants can appear. What fun is that during times like these? Super fun. I am able to find new items to grow, and I get to interact with others from my chair. Perfect!

3) Lastly, I learned this year, for the first time, how to collect berry seeds. I could have done so in years past, but it was too scary. I did it this season and am confident enough to do it again in the future!

(Didn't make it to San Francisco yet. I was too ill to go anywhere and know now I could never have made it. Hope to do so in the coming months.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Too Sore to Think Therapy

As anyone with chronic pain can tell you (or a chronic illness for that matter), nothing is worse than when you are too sore to even participate in the most simple activities. These most basic things are usually what give you your much needed breaks of pleasure amongst the pain, and they are the peaks to an otherwise constant flow of noise in the body electric. I have cruised through today, floating at last in the rescue raft, lifeboat, called, "VACATION."
Though I'd hoped to put the garden to sleep by now, it is a work in progress, and now that I have a window to the world again, I must close it and look away, at least until... I AM IN SAN FRAN on ELECTION DAY!!!! Until then, I must direct all of my energy around: time management, getting the basics done, laundry, light editing work, and my least favorite thing of all—rest.
To keep this in focus, plants will be involved too, and I will see several gardens, and old friends. I am looking forward to City Lights Bookstore, hanging with my husband looking at art, and best of all, haunting North Beach.
Once a west coast center of Italian-American life, it is only a shell now of what it once was. During its last days, almost a decade ago, I met an old Sicilian stranger and he helped to change my life. He had just discovered the body of an old friend who'd passed away "alone in America." He was speaking in dialect to a friend and I was listening. He saw me and could tell I'd understood. He asked me where my family had come from and I said, "Sicilia a long time ago." He asked me if I'd like to talk, if I needed to talk, and I said, "Yes." After an hour or two of coffee I left that day knowing that I would not die "alone in America."
For this reason, the return to North Beach with my husband is always magical to me because I feel like I'd cast a spell that day long ago. At my feet was a bag full of books that eventually led me to the class where I met my husband. He is just what we'd spoken of that day. An old Sicilian stranger and I, imaging the perfect husband for me. He was like any of my great-uncles or their cousins but by then I'd lost almost all but one. He'd been to where my family still lives in Sicily and told me of the town's honey. That conversation still astounds me.
And now I am here at home, dealing with some pretty horrible pain, wanting to think of plants, and growing them, but I can't. My mind is fuzzy and blank. I cannot think with that humming buzzing shaking. My next simple pleasure will be coffee at breakfast, and my thoughts now, of San Fran and a Sicilian-American stranger I once met, and thoughts of the other I married.
Here's to chance encounters and dreams of the marvelous.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bartering with Plants

If you are like me, basically disabled and unable to work, and you tend to grow lots of plants, try using the barter system on Craigslist. It has been working for me like a charm. (I also check the WANTED column and have found two people looking for very specific items that I've had sitting around.) So far, my most recent posting has been very fruitful. One woman needed some poker plants, sedums, and some palm trees. She helped me weed for two or three hours. That was great since my back and hips have been really hurting me. This week, another woman is going to help me in exchange for an orphaned Japanese maple I have that my mom saved once a long time ago. After that afternoon, I have one more barter-date lined up. I am not sure yet what that woman is looking for, but she is very open to lots of ideas.
With the economy being a sour as it is right now, this is a great way to get the things you need taken care of without it hurting too much. Besides, it is nice to have someone else working with you outside when it is hard enought to be out there in the first place.
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